Wedding Vows 101: Writing From Your Heart

“And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter—they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.” - Sylvia Plath

 Photo Credit: Jordan Graber

Photo Credit: Jordan Graber

 

I always knew I would write my own wedding vows. My background in writing and performing made me look forward to the task, seeing it as an artistic challenge rather than a burden. I started dreaming up the words I would speak, and would get struck by creative lightning riding on my scooter, pulling over the side of the road to take note. My ceremony was intentionally very emotional and in some ways somber. During the reception, Emile’s family would approach me to say they felt like they knew more about me after the ceremony. That was certainly my intention; to connect. Here is some insight into my process, perhaps it will help you!

Get on the same page

Even though Emile was a little shy about writing his own vows, I knew he had the interest and capacity to complete the task. If he had been uncomfortable, I would have chosen to write something together instead. We agreed on a general time line (1-3 minutes) and decided to leave the style and theme open. My step-dad was our officiant, so we shared an outline of our words with him so he could align his message with ours, creating cohesion.

  • If you are using a faith-based officiant you should check in with them about your plans to create your own vows. There may be specific language or verses they’d like you to include.
  • Some formats to try: Mad lib, define a set of specific promises, share your perspective on the story of how you met, write a sonnet, follow a movie or book theme.

Gather inspiration

Start taking notice of what strikes you as moving or romantic.  As you watch movies, read books or magazines and let’s face it, troll the Internet reading other people’s vows, jot down the sentiments that make you feel weepy about your partner.

Get specific

After considering your audience (Nana doesn’t want to know that you met on Tinder) and the tone of the event, start thinking specifically about you and your partner’s life together and story. John Hodgeman says, “Specificity is the soul of narrative” and in this case it couldn’t be more true.  Allowing your guests access to the intimate or surprising aspects of your union will make the ceremony more sincere.  “I promise to love you forever,” is a given.  “I promise to love you even when you load the dishwasher with cups on the bottom rack,” or “even if I wake up every night for the rest of my life with no blanket,” is a surprise that leads guests into a detail of your private life; Oh so HE’s the overly-organized one, SHE’s a bed hog.

Talk it out

Use a recording app on your phone to record yourself talking off the cuff, imagining you are at the ceremony.  You’ll end up with a lot of stuttering and “ums,” but the more times you try it you may get to some deep sentiments that will also sound and feel conversational.

Read the vows to yourself (a lot)

As you close in on the final version read it aloud to yourself many times in a mirror. Personally, Emile and I read our vows through three times the morning of our wedding (yes! we also did not sleep separately) and I loved it that way. It made me feel special to hear the words just from him and I felt more confident standing in front of our group, knowing what he would say.

Declaring your intent

Creating your own declaration of intent can be a great way to incorporate personality into the ceremony whether or not you choose to write your own vows.  This is the statement voiced by the officiant and then repeated by the couple. Having a call and response section of the ceremony pays homage to tradition, but there’s no reason it has to be, “til death do us part.”  
Emile and I did it this way, each repeating the lines after our officiant. Feel free to borrow and modify to your liking, you wouldn’t be the first one!

I promise
I promise
To walk ahead of you when you need me to lead
To walk ahead of you when you need me to lead
To walk behind you when you need my support
To walk behind you when you need my support
And to walk beside you, your hand in mine, for the rest of my days.
And to walk beside you, your hand in mine, for the rest of my days.

 

The most important thing to remember is to be true to yourself and your union. This is your time to speak in front of your tribe and say something about this significant choice you’ve made. Make an intentional declaration about why you’ve made that choice and it will surely touch everyone in the room, especially, your partner.